“Ngĩribotera Inooro TV, njĩtagwo Mũitĩrĩri wa Wangarĩ.” (Reporting for Inooro TV, this is Muitiriri wa Wangari).
This is a sign-off that you will not miss if you tune in to Inooro TV 7.00pm and 9.00pm news. Fred Muitiriri wa Wangari has, since the start of this year, been creating a mark for himself in the delivery of the daily happenings in the country through the Gĩkũyũ language.
But what you do not see from this man who graces your screens is his resilience and determination in pursuing the goals he has set his sight on in life. His is a journey that started from the dusty and hot streets of Modagashe town in Isiolo County as a police officer. Yes, a member of the Kenya Police force.
Muitiriri’s journey to journalism did not take the typical career path. Straight from high school, he knew that he wanted to be journalist, inspired by the likes of Jack Oyoo Sylvester and Ali Salim Manga. But we all know life has a way of throwing us curve balls that will more often than not make us deviate from the paths of our dreams.
And that is what happened to Muitiriri. His single mother who had two other siblings in school to take care of could not afford to pay for his college tuition. And after a few years dabbling as a farmer and a construction worker (kanda ya moko), Muitiriri got the opportunity to join the Kenya Police in 2004.
The harsh climate of North Eastern Kenya where Muitiriri was posted in 2005 was a perfect ground to harden him for the challenges ahead. He admits that his time in Modagashe helped immensely to shape him into a decisive man standing out amongst his colleagues like a sore thumb.
“I was never cowed or intimidated. I respected my seniors but I was also quick to highlight our challenges without fear.” He expounds with a deep baritone that reverberates across the room as if confronting a suspect.
A senior officer once visited his station one day and as the norm, the officers mounted a guard of honour. During inspection, the senior officer demanded to know why Muitiriri’s boots were worn out and not as shiny as those of his peers.
“Afande watu wengine wameomba viatu ndio usionee viatu zetu zimeraruka!” (Sir, my colleagues have borrowed shoes from our friends but I put on my only worn out because this is all I have).
As expected, this put him in a collision path with his seniors from that point on. As a faithful and committed Christian, this didn’t bother him much.
“I was the pastor in a church where we only had five worshippers every Sunday,” he elaborates excitedly. “The five of us would meet to clean up the church every Saturday evening, and meet on Sunday for praise, worship and sharing the word of God.” He expounds. “We did this faithfully for the three years I was in Modagashe. It was a humbling experience but equally spiritually and morally uplifting.”
All this time, the outspoken solider had his eyes trained on his dream to become a journalist. He was to face his next hurdle, getting transfer to Nairobi to enable him to join the acclaimed Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC).
“I had saved enough money for a certificate course. I was earning approximately Ksh11,000 and I would save Ksh3,000 towards my journalism course. The challenge now was leaving for Nairobi. The police force is not a job you wake up one morning and resign from.”
The hurdles ahead included knocking on police headquarters and calling on some highly placed senior police officers to help him out.
“It was tough, but God helped me through. And the next phase of my life opened up with a new set of challenges”
He was admitted to KIMC as an evening student, meaning that he had to foot his own means of accommodation and other basic needs including food.
In his three years of schooling, he shuffled between living with friends, renting a shanty in a slum and almost missing his final exam due to outstanding fee balances.
If Muitiriri had found his three years of schooling tough, then the outside world was tougher and unforgiving. Times were so hard that he went back to tilling their small farm in the village and doing odd jobs just to eke a living.
“Friends and relatives found a good time to mock and ridicule my decision to leave the police force. The struggle was real.”
After more than five years of joblessness, he finally landed a trainee opportunity at the Standard group.
“When I was finally picked alongside four other trainees, I prophetically told them with a bit of chest-thumping that I was never going to leave the giant media house without a job.”
Words are a powerful tool for self-appraisal and positive talk is good for personal motivation. When an opportunity presented itself in the form of an early morning radio show at Radio Maisha, Muitiriri sniffed his time to shine had come. He pulled all the lessons he had picked along the way and packaged them for an audience of more than three million listeners every morning from 4.00am to 6.00am.
“It was baptism by fire my brother.” He explains with an optimistic grin. “My mentor and good friend Antony Ndiema literary made a two-minutes presentation on the control board and left me to run the show.”
Five years later, not only had he amassed a huge fan base but he had also grown to an all-round radio icon and a household name.
“I was a news correspondent, an editor, a show host and news presenter all in one. I had learnt valuable lessons from some of the best guys in the trade.”
For many people, such achievements would be a dream come true and they would be pessimistic to leave a promising job to unknown territory. For him, it was time to test new waters.
His move to the vernacular broadcaster Inooro TV was a tough decision for him and some of his former bosses but he has no regrets for it.
“The vernacular market is a dynamic space where you must know your stuff very well.” Muitiriri argues reflectively. “But this is a language you’ve spoken all your life and therefore all you need is to professionally package your message and yourself for the audience.”
He tells us he is itching to bring a fresh breath and a new approach by focusing on the good things around us.
“There are so many Kenyans doing positive things for the society. They need a voice, the need space, they need to be known and helped to grow. That’s where my entire mind is focused.”
If ever a man can sing the goodness of the Lord, it is this man, Fred Muitiriri wa Wangari. He is a mentor and a committed father who treasures every minute spent with his young family.
“My family is my everything. If am not at work you can almost always be certain I will be with them wherever I am.”
This is the true gift of a fighting spirit and this man is ready to leave a mark in the world, one step at a time.